Oct 132021
 

‘The Best Covers Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

best paul simon covers

“I usually come in second to Dylan,” Paul Simon once said, “and I don’t like coming in second.” Indeed, he’s had to deal with it literally ever since he was born, in 1941. We already celebrated Bob Dylan’s 80th birthday in May, and today we turn to the man Dylan has called “one of the preeminent songwriters of the times,” Paul Simon, as he hits his own 80th. Simon’s in the rarified air of someone whose songs get covered almost as much as Dylan’s (ugh – second place again), so for this month’s Best Covers Ever, we’re diving into covers of the entire Paul Simon catalog, both solo and with Simon and Garfunkel.

Another thing Dylan once said about Simon, in relation to his own music, is this: “I’m not Paul Simon. I can’t do that. My songs come out of folk music and early rock n’ roll, and that’s it. I’m not a classical lyricist, I’m not a meticulous lyricist. I don’t write melodies that are clever or catchy.”

False modesty aside, Dylan hits on some of what makes Simon’s work so beloved by other musicians. His melodies are clever and catchy. His lyrics are meticulous. In both words and music, Simon can use a little to say a lot. His songs have strong cores, but leave a lot of space for other artists to play around with. So it’s no surprise that the list below spans genres from punk, dance music, gospel, and more. You’ll hear every sound except one: Silence (sorry). No matter how afield the songs roam, though, they still sound like Paul Simon.

So enough talk about Simon being a perennial silver medal winner. His craft and his talent have earned him and his songs a place at the top of the medal podium, and these fifty covers prove it.

The list begins on Page 2.

Apr 212021
 

Welcome to Cover Me Q&A, where we take your questions about cover songs and answer them to the best of our ability.

a cappella cover

Here at Cover Me Q&A, we’ll be taking questions about cover songs and giving as many different answers as we can. This will give us a chance to hold forth on covers we might not otherwise get to talk about, to give Cover Me readers a chance to learn more about individual staffers’ tastes and writing styles, and to provide an opportunity for some back-and-forth, as we’ll be taking requests (learn how to do so at feature’s end).

Today’s question, suggested by staffer Jordan Becker: What’s your favorite cover song based on a relative’s original?
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Mar 262021
 

In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.

Last summer I was crushed by mail at my job as a mail carrier, at a time when everyone was ordering Amazon as they stayed at home. I was further flattened by a boulder with the news that Justin Townes Earle had passed away at the age of 38. The headline went by in a blink, like all the news last year, and although I had hoped to write about his career, full of a multitude of covers from several genres, a 100-year pandemic event of mail turned into a 100-year event of election mail, and then a 100-year event of Christmas packages. My timely tribute was not meant to be.

Earle, like all prodigies with musical DNA, was often compared to his father. Some wanted to compare the similarities of their Americana music, while others wanted to highlight the differences, such as JTE’s penchant for wearing traditional bluegrass suits on stage. I sometimes wonder if he defied comparisons on purpose, dressing in a summer suit while dropping f-bombs in a plethora of raunchy realness. But anyone that heard them would never confuse the two.

Earle was the latest victim in a slew of high-profile opioid deaths. Prince. Tom Petty. Jay Bennett of Wilco. After JTE died, Steve Earle came out with a tribute album of his son’s songs, heartbreaking evidence that the father defied the devil’s bookies and outlived the son.

The people who give us joy are suddenly ripped away. But in JTE’s case, some of that joy was recorded on camera. Here, on the ninth anniversary of the release of his album Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now, let’s take a look at some of his best covers.
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Jan 042021
 

J.T. Steve EarleSo, where to start? Father buries son, the two both acclaimed artists, both arguably difficult to love as people and who seemingly found it hard to love each other, both riddled with demons and overly familiar with self-medication. Too much cliché there, I fear, the sort that leads to declarations of relief that the son’s OD was accidental. Like that helps anyone.

So let’s start with the barer facts. Justin Townes Earle was a mighty fine songwriter. His father, Steve, still is. Earle Sr. has only made three covers albums, this the third, all tributes. The first two, Townes (Van Zandt) and Guy (Clark), are dedicated to his two greatest influences, who both happened also to be friends and mentors of his and of each other. Check out their live joint benefit album Together at the Bluebird Cafe for proof of that. No coincidence in how he named his firstborn. My sort of clumsy point is that Earle doesn’t pay tribute lightly: you gotta be pretty damn good at your trade to get his nod. J.T. was pretty damn good, and J.T., Steve Earle’s tribute to him (released on what would have been his 39th birthday), is all the proof of that you need.
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Feb 252019
 

‘The Best Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

buddy holly covers

The so-called “Day the Music Died” occurred 60 years ago this month. One night after an Iowa concert, that fateful plane crash took out a host of young pioneers of the first wave of rock and roll: Ritchie Valens, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson (in a last minute seat-trade with Waylon Jennings), and, of course, Buddy Holly.

Over at 22, Holly’s career had barely begun. But in a few short years, he’d written and recorded some of the most foundational tracks of rock and roll. So, to remember him six decades on, we’re ranking the best covers of his songs – from “Rave On” to “Not Fade Away” to a host of deep-cut gems that deserve wider recognition.

We were going to include 22 covers to honor Holly’s age but – in a testament to how much he accomplished in such a short time – that turned out to be not nearly enough. So we expanded the list to 36, his birth year. And frankly, we could have easily doubled it. That’s how often his songs have been covered by his admirers of yesterday and today. So rave on, Buddy, with these 36 fantastic covers of your songs.

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Feb 262014
 

In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

In the 1980s, there was one artist that Minneapolis became known for. And that was Prince.

But if you took the bus to the bad part of town, watching the blight and the snowy misery go by through fogged up windows, you would eventually spot a burned-out, abandoned, and graffiti-tagged little red Corvette: perched up on blocks, stuffed with liquor bottles in the back seat, and harboring a coffee can in the front filled to the brim with cigarette butts. If you opened the door, you would find a floor littered with cassettes. K-Tel. Kiss. Big Star. And if you ran the VIN number, you’d find the owner to be the Replacements.
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